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Democrats respond in-depth to AFT candidate questionaries

Craig Clough | July 14, 2015

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Hilary ClintonThe American Federation of Teachers (AFT) came out swinging, and swinging hard, when it endorsed Hillary Clinton for president over the weekend.

It was the first major union to endorse any candidate in either party, and the timing of the news seemed to come “at an opportune moment for Mrs. Clinton” just as she is looking to deflate the growing popularity of her chief rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, the New York Times reported.

To get land the endorsement, Clinton, Sanders and other Democratic contender Martin O’Malley, a former governor of Maryland, completed a questionnaire and appeared before the AFT’s executive council. (Republican candidates were invited, but none accepted the invitation.) The decision was also based on internal polling of members, the AFT said, with two-thirds of members expressing support of Clinton.

The endorsement has been met with cynicism in some Democratic party circles. As the Times also pointed out, the AFT is led by longtime Clinton ally Randi Weingarten, and it also backed her losing candidacy in 2008.

Slate, Forbes, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and others have run articles about the backlash the AFT is receiving over the endorsement. The articles point out the 2,300 negative comments posted to the AFT’s Facebook page, the 3,000-plus that have already signed an online petition asking the AFT to withdraw the endorsement, that Clinton’s views on key issues like standardized tests and charter schools clash with the AFT’s positions and that some question if the move is really all about Weingarten’s future political ambitions.

In essence, the critics believe the questionnaire was a pointless endeavor and that Clinton’s endorsement was inevitable given her close ties to Weingarten.

Whether that is true of not, the questionnaires do offer a rare in-depth analysis of the candidates’ views on education, and while they may have been pointless reading for the AFT executive council, they are valuable to any voter who ranks education as a top priority. The questionnaires are lengthy and detailed, and may be the most articulate any of the Democratic candidates will be asked to be on education through the whole election cycle.

To read the AFT questionnaires and the candidates’ answers, click here: Hillary ClintonBernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley.




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